Martin Opitz combines elements of the panegyric and the heroic epic in his Ratispona in libertatem vindicata, an epic poem published in 1633. By means of a narration that adapts and variates the genre tradition, he creates a future-oriented perspective of historical meaning and presents an interpretation of the historical events constituting the war that later came to be known as the Thirty Years War. In so doing, he emphatically raises the claim that the carmen heroicum’s interpretation of history is a proclamation of truth.
In epic poems of the seventeenth century written in German about the Thirty Years’ War, knowledge is set in motion, especially in the context of genre change and shifts in the generic tradition as well as in the conflictive area between fiction and non-fiction. The generic adjustments are partially caused by the transfer of a Greek and Latin genre model into German. This is illustrated by two examples, Martin Opitz’s Trost-Getichte in Widerwärtigkeit des Krieges, first published in 1633, and Georg Greflingerʼs Der Deutschen Dreißig-Jähriger Krieg, published in 1657.
This article starts from Achim Landwehr’s thesis that the present is an invention of the 17th century, and that this is reflected not least in developments in contemporary narrative literature. It analyzes the narrative representation of the relationship between life-time and world-time (Lebenszeit und Weltzeit) in the epic poem Achilles Germanorvm, published anonymously in 1632, in which the contemporary events of the Thirty Years War are interpreted allegorically in the light of the Trojan War. It is shown that the present in the epic is not emphatically asserted as present, but presented as part of a model of time operating with the factors of repetition, recurrence, and mythical meaningfulness. World-time (Weltzeit) appears in the epic as structured by repetition and recurrence, and the role of the single individual is also embedded in this model. Landwehr’s account, however, needs to be corrected to the effect that, contrary to what he insinuates, such interpretations of the present did exist at all in the genre of epic verse in the 17th century and that the epic genre had not at all become outmoded at that period. They are highly relevant for understanding a history of the telling of time in the 17th century.
The special issue at hand provides a contribution to the historical exploration of early modern carmina heroica (epic poems) in the German area of the early modern period, especially of the ‘long’ 17th century. To this purpose, perspectives of Latin and German Studies, of researchers with expertise in medieval and modern literary history, are brought together. This introductory article puts the following theses up for discussion: 1) The view that epic poems of the early modern period are a genre with little relevance for the history of literature is wrong and has to be corrected. 2) Accordingly, the view has to be corrected that the history of narrative in the modern era leads teleologically to the modern novel. 3) For the exploration of the history of carmina heroica, the traditions of didactic poems and heroic poems have to be taken into consideration together. 4) Epic poems of the ‘long’ 17th century have a particular tendency to generic hybridization. 5) The genre history of carmina heroica can be reconstructed appropriately only by taking into account the vernacular as well as the Latin tradition.